Archive for the ‘Noisome Night’ Category

Silent nightlife

November 20, 2009

Have you seen Whit Stillman’s recently-released-on-DVD The Last Days of Disco? No? Well, then, hie thee to Hulu and watch Stillman’s elegiac and thoughtful recreation of the early-80s New York club scene. At the end, Josh makes an impassioned statement: “Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts. Something like this, that was this big and this important and this great will never die. . . . Disco was too great and too much fun to be gone forever! I just hope it will be in our own lifetimes.”

Unfortunately, disco didn’t die–it lingered on, polluting the Christmas music supply. Indeed, the intertubes are lousy with bad disco renditions of Christmas classics. But, even if they mangle the originals, at least some of the older ones have a strong disco rhythm:

Moreover, these have the excuse of being produced in the ’70s. Not so this hideous Hit Crew album from 2007, which can’t even find a decent balance between the original song and a disco beat, and end up with too much of both.

All this to say–have a very groovy Christmas.

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Christmas heartache (and earache)

November 17, 2009

What do you think of at Christmas? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Sweet memories with family? Cider and egg nog? Making snowmen? The birth of the Christ child?

George Michael and someone else think about this time someone broke their heart.

“Last Christmas” embodies so much about Christmas spirit fail. First off, it has a noxious but insistent melody, which makes itself an unwelcome guest in your ears. It has relentlessly syrupy lyrics. And it’s depressing to boot–a song deliberately designed to kill your Christmas cheer.

Its one grace note may be when Wham! whines “I thought you were someone special” on the seemingly endless denouement. (Did I mention that “Last Christmas” clocks in at almost 7 minutes? It feels as though it lasts all the way from last Christmas to this one.)

And because it is so uniquely awful, “Last Christmas” is a top choice for cover artists, including Ashley Tisdale, who seems intent on proving that there’s no tune that the Disney Channel’s subtalented tweens won’t make even worse.

Teary Christmas, everyone.

Bob Dylan, wishing you a very wheezy Christmas

November 6, 2009

It’s November, folks, and that means it’s time to kick off the blog of Christmas Spirit Fail–all those awful songs that will be invading your eardrums and declaring victory over the next two months.

Let’s start with an item in The Weekly Standard, which includes a fine article on how Bob Dylan fans “are the battered wives of the music industry.” Now, I’m OK with the early, dating-Joan-Baez Dylan as much as the next guy, but I can’t admit to being inspired with the hazy, lazy, wheezy, greasy stuff that Dylan spins out in his latter days. And that’s not going to change with Christmas in the Heart, Dylan’s schlocky holiday album. (Just listen to the song previews on Amazon!)

And then luxuriate in Andy Ferguson’s bilious criticism:

Christmas in the Heart, the most misanthropic Dylan album ever, spreads it all on the outer layer. The record is a collection of Christmas standards, familiar kitsch classics like “Winter Wonderland” and “Silver Bells” and forgotten kitsch classics like Sammy Cahn’s “Christmas Blues,” along with the obligatory quasi-hymns, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” sung, Deus misereatur, in Latin.

The production and packaging are professional. The band is competent in a midnight-at-the-Nashville Hyatt sort of way–maybe a little heavy on the tremolo but still. And the songs themselves are fine, of course. The arrangements, though, are jarringly slick, with sleigh bells and gossamer strings and cooing girl singers–as if Dylan had chosen to lift the backing tracks from an Andy Williams Christmas special circa 1968. Oozing just beneath his asthmatic croak, the arrangements give an effect of overwhelming creepiness. His voice gets worse with every track. You wonder whether someone left the karaoke machine on in the emphysema ward at the old folks’ home. He doesn’t sing notes so much as make exhausted gestures in their general direction, until at a break he falls silent and is rescued by the backup singers, who reestablish the melody in the proper key. But then he starts singing again.

Merry Christmas!